Russell Brand Secret Policemans Ball - Epix video snapshotAfter a four-year absence, the Secret Policeman’s Ball, a longtime comedy staple in Britain, returned Sunday night, holding its first fundraising show ever in America to benefit Amnesty International.

Celebrating Amnesty’s 50th anniversary, 35 of the world’s most talented comedians and musicians stood up for free speech during the star-studded evening at Radio City Music Hall, headlined by Russell Brand, Sarah Silverman, Ben Stiller, Jon Stewart, Saturday Night Live regulars and musical acts Coldplay and Mumford & Sons.

“It may sound far-fetched, but comedy is truly life-threatening in many places in the world, said Suzanne Nossel, Amnesty International USA executive director. “The best way to stand with those who are denied freedom of speech is to use our freedom to demand theirs.”

Actor Liam Neeson took the stage to introduce Maung Thura Zarganar, a Burmese comedian who was convicted of “public order offenses” and sentenced to 59 years in prison there. He was finally freed after 11 years, thanks to the efforts of Amnesty International.

The Secret Policeman’s Ball was first launched by funnyman and British actor John Cleese (Monty Python) in 1976 to support free speech around the world. 6,000 people crowded the first-ever American version, many paying $500 per ticket.

Channel 4 will exclusively broadcast the two-and-a-half hour show in the U.K. tomorrow, Friday, March 9 at 10pm.

The U.S. broadcast partner, EPIX, telecasted the event LIVE, and has the video available for viewers who try a 14-day free trial of their service.

(WATCH a video below from the show – READ a review in the WS Journal, or a longer one in the Independent)

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